Meditations

Need A New Edge?


kitchen_knives.jpg

We’ve all got them. Beautiful knives we bought years ago. And we’ve taken good care of them…steeling them before setting them to work, then washing them by hand (never putting them in the dishwasher! Gasp!) after using and lovingly setting them back in their block to rest before calling upon them to do their duty once again. But lately, it seems they just don’t have their old edge any more as they grudgingly go through a pork roast they would once have whipped through with ease. What do you do? No skill with a whetstone? Well, you may not know Jack about honing your Henckels, but he’s the man to call.

Jack Kitano, that is. I called him last week and got his voicemail, so I left a message about having some knives to sharpen, and he got back to me a couple of hours later. I told him I had two knives I knew needed new edges, but that I had three more I wasn’t so sure about. Could I bring them by to him some time soon, and have him take a look? “Yes, yes,” he said, “I’ll come to you.” “No, no, no, there’s no need for that, I’m going out to run some errands this afternoon. Let me drop them off with you.” “No, no, no, I’ll come pick them up from you. How is tomorrow, 10:00 a.m.?” I was, how you say, surprised by the lengths this very enthusiastic-sounding man was willing to go to to get his hands on those knives.

Next morning, 10:00 a.m., sharp. Literally. My door buzzer rings, and after a few moments there’s a crisp knock on the door. I answer it to find that the man who sounded energetic on the phone yesterday is bursting at the seams with it in person today, smiling and nodding hello. I usher him into our small kitchen, and he picks up the two knives I think need work. “Hmmm. Yes, these could be better,” he says thoughtfully, running his thumb across their blades. I then show him the knives I’m not sure about: an old filet knife I inherited from my grandfather, a Sabatier carving knife my old friend Edward Tuson gave me when I left the Sooke Harbour House, and a medium length Henckel chef’s knife – the first knife I bought with my own dough, about fourteen years ago. I once loved this knife, but sadly, the thrill was long, long gone.

After getting new Wusthof knives a few years back, it became clear that the Henckel did clumsily what the Wusthofs did with agility and aplomb. It was heavy for its size, the blade was not deep enough to keep you from rapping your knuckles on the cutting board nor the roll or length enough to really go at a pile of parsely and reduce it to ribbons. Oh, and the handle was too wide too. It fell into misuse (whacking through frozen chicken bones for stock, which broke off the tip) and then into disuse, the handle gathering dust in the far bottom right slot of the knife block. And that was it, I thought. I’m never going to use it again, so I should throw it away, or give it away. But as Mr. Kitano cradled this knife in his hands, a light came into his eyes. No kidding. “I, ah, fix so you like,” he said softly, nodding his head with surety, as he looked up both judging me and forgiving me, or so it seemed, for having neglected one of his own.

I was dubious, but feeling sort of guilty so of course I said okay. How could I refuse? He packed them all up, worked his whetstone wonders on them, and then dropped my knives off for me at work twenty four hours later – exactly as promised. And the miracle was the Henckel. It’s still not my favourite knife to use, but seriously, he made a samurai sword of what had become a sorry-ass meat cleaver. Oh, yeah, and the other knives are like lasers now, too. I just point them at carrots, celery and onions and “bzzzzt!!!” Mirepoix. Scary.

Jack Kitano approached my knives with politeness and with a quiet joy that bordered on reverence. He has a dedication to his work and to his customers that today, it’s sad to say, is almost unbelievable. Yet there it is. If you live in Greater Vancouver, and if you have knives, and if you want those knives to be all they can be, you need his service. He’s the master.

Jack can be reached at 604-736-0872

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